Artist Stella Maria Baer (see her website here) lives in New Haven, Connecticut with a pet hedgehog. The Baer family always kept animals while Stella was growing up. She, her parents, and her brother all have “animal nicknames,” she says, like spirit animals.
Eight years ago she painted of a portrait of her mom and dad’s animals together (zebra and possum, respectively, though her mom is also sometimes identified as a donkey) as a birthday gift for her dad. (She doesn’t want to say what her own animal is.)
She did a few other “portraits” of friends and family in animal form, then continued with the theme on her own, sometimes combining one or more animals in the same work. She’s done more than 30 of the paintings altogether.
Baer is clearly an animal lover, but her work isn’t just about aww-cuteness. As she puts it: “The paintings are a way for me to borrow language from natural history, fairy tales, and surrealism — three things that have always interested me — to create glimpses of other worlds.” There is sometimes a Twilight Zone edge to them — in one, a rooster rides its natural enemy, the fox; here, a lonesome dog parachutes through an ominous night sky.
Baer’s favorite of her own paintings is “Napoleon and Frances,” in which a hedgehog rides a peregrine falcon. “My grandmother Josephine had two hedgehogs while I was growing up, one after the other, Frances I and Frances II, and when she was younger she had a peregrine falcon named Napoleon,” Baer says. “I made this painting of Frances riding Napoleon for Josie’s 90th birthday.”
Baer is also accomplished in the field of pet-hedgehog photography. Hegel, below, is an African Pygmy hedgehog named after the German writer and philosopher. (Baer was a philosophy major.)
He was born on July 20th, 2012.
Hedgehog breeders are called “hedgehoggeries.” Says Baer: “Some folks call hedgehog photography ‘hedgehogography.’”
Hegel’s hedgehoggery gave him to Baer in exchange for a small painting — a painting of a hedgehog.
And here’s where Hegel lives.
Sure, it’s a studio apartment, but he’s young and single, and it’s got good light. And it’s made out of acorns.